A sit-in protest to stop the Sri Lankan civil war and investigate the alleged genocide of the Tamils in Sri Lanka
The earliest Tamil immigration into France can be traced back to since the 17th Century, from the French-administered colony of Puducherry in India. A large number of them hailing from middle-class families who joined the French Government on service.
The later arrivals were mostly Tamils from Sri Lanka, who fled the country during the violence in 1983 and the Civil War that succeeded it. Today, there are about 50,000 Sri Lankan Tamils living in France, of which the greatest number live in Paris.
The Parisian Tamil community was fairly dispersed and disorderly until 1991, when Paris-based Tamils began to form tightly-knit networks centred in the northern reaches of Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis. Tamil-owned businesses appeared in great numbers seemingly overnight, while the colorful Chariot Festival, a tribute to the Hindu elephant god Ganesha, has become a popular annual procession eagerly anticipated by thousands of Parisians. There are Tamil newspapers, a radio station, and a website dedicated to Paris' residents.
Apart from speaking Tamil their native language, most of the Tamils are fluent speakers of English due to their British colonial past. Many of the early migrants had struggled to find work and higher education due to their relatively lesser understanding of the French. As a result many of them have taken up free and paid classes to learn French. A critical demand is that the French government create special work-training programs designed to orient refugees from different fields.
The Tamil community try to preserve their culture by creating special schools for children. Today there are ten or eleven active branches in Paris and in the suburbs (banlieue). In these weekend classes, children are taught Tamil, traditional music and dance, and religion.
Tamil dancers take part in the May day rally in Paris, 2010
In only 10 years, "Little Jaffna", located at the last stretch of the winding street of Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis in the 10th arrondissement, between metros Gare de Nord and La Chapelle, has sprung to life and begun to truly flourish. Majority of the residents fled Sri Lanka in the 1980s, which saw the beginning of the country's civil war. It is commonly mistakenly called by the average Parisian as Little Bombay. Little Jaffna is also famous for the annual chariot procession held during Ganesha Chathurthi. Both the area and event have become popular tourist attractions. Little Jaffna is a thriving village in its own right, offering a kind of cultural richness that seems curiously preserved from French influence.